An unholy mess

Grade: C minus

Shot in France using a real abandoned church, “The Nun II” has its Catholic credentials in order, and once again gives us a demonic nun bearing a weird resemblance to rock star Alice Cooper. The Catholic element is what gives these films some semblance of verisimilitude.

Written by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing of “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” and Akela Cooper of “MEGAN” fame, based on characters created by Gary Dauberman (“Annabelle Comes Home”) and the horror and action film phenomenon James Wan (“The Conjuring”), “The Nun II” is a sequel to “The Nun” (2018) and the ninth installment in “The Conjuring” universe.

Now, I like nun movies as much as anyone (one of my favorites is Ken Russell’s still shocking 1971 horrorshow “The Devils”), and I bring a Catholic parochial school background to these films. Like its predecessor, “The Nun II,”  which is in essence a remake of the wildly successful (in spite of terrible reviews and audience scores) first film, borrows a lot of plot development and incense-infused iconography from the late William Friedkin’s landmark horror film “The Exorcist” (1973).

This new “Nun” movie, directed by Michael Chaves (“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”) has nothing to offer except 1 hour and 50 minutes of jump cuts (the film equivalent of someone shouting, ”Boo!” in your face) and newly-anointed “Scream Queen” Taissa Farmiga furrowing her brow while decked out as the spiritually powerful, but otherwise vapid Sister Irene of the first film. Also returning is actor Bonnie Aarons, who played the satanic homeless person in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (2001) and originated the role of the demon nun Valak in “The Conjuring 2” (2016).

In this installment Valak has reappeared in rural France in 1956 in the sacristy of a church, where the demon causes a bottle of wine to explode and water to boil in a stone font and then immolates a priest. Sister Irene has a new BFF in this film. She is Sister Debra (Storm Reid), who is from Mississippi and was sent to a convent by her father after the family home was burned down. Sisters Irene and Debra find themselves in a French town with a boarding school, where Valak seeks another relic, the gouged out eyes of St. Lucy of Syracuse. Also at the boarding school is a hunky gardener named Maurice (tall Belgian Jonas Bloquet of the original film), who is romantically interested in a teacher named Kate (Anna Popplewell, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”). The teacher has a daughter named Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey) at the school. The demonic nun takes a special interest in Sophie, of course. In one scene, some “mean girls” lure Sophie into a ruined chapel and lock her in. Someone becomes possessed by Valak, adding to the number of satanic baddies. Girls scream and run. The demonic nun kills some people gruesomely (Why?). This happens. Then, that happens.

In the film’s technically best scene, Sister Irene encounters a possessed newsstand in a dark street and pages of multiple magazines begin to unfold, flapping maniacally before her, revealing a certain face. In the worst sequence, a character we barely know is lured into the ruined chapel and killed (Why?). With its Escher-meets-Hogwarts-like stairways, door-pounding demon goat and collapsing floors and bell tower, “The Nun II” is more like an amusement park ride you did not want to take than a movie. The most frightening thing about “The Nun II” is the inevitability of “The Nun III.”

(“The Nun II” contains gruesome images, frightening scenes and a demon resembling Alice Cooper)

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